Liver fibrosis due to viral or metabolic chronic liver diseases is a major challenge of global health. Correlating with liver disease progression, fibrosis is a key factor for liver disease outcome and risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Despite different mechanism of primary liver injury and disease-specific cell responses, the progression of fibrotic liver disease follows shared patterns across the main liver disease etiologies. Scientific discoveries within the last decade have transformed the understanding of the mechanisms of liver fibrosis. Removal or elimination of the causative agent such as control or cure of viral infection has shown that liver fibrosis is reversible. However, reversal often occurs too slowly or too infrequent to avoid life-threatening complications particularly in advanced fibrosis. Thus, there is a huge unmet medical need for anti-fibrotic therapies to prevent liver disease progression and HCC development. However, while many anti-fibrotic candidate agents have shown robust effects in experimental animal models, their anti-fibrotic effects in clinical trials have been limited or absent. Thus, no approved therapy exists for liver fibrosis. In this review we summarize cellular drivers and molecular mechanisms of fibrogenesis in chronic liver diseases and discuss their impact for the development of urgently needed anti-fibrotic therapies.
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